Authorities in Henrico County, Virginia, are warning residents about a pattern of home burglaries targeting Asian business owners, with at least two incidents reported in the last month.
In a flier sent to the local Asian community, Henrico police vowed to “investigate, develop suspects and make arrests for these crimes,” which are believed to occur while the homeowners are away.
My Lan Tran, executive director of the Virginia Asian Chamber of Commerce, told WTVR that there have been at least 12 burglaries in Henrico County in the last year. She organized a public safety meeting on Tuesday to raise awareness of the incidents.
“People know where they reside, and [so] they come to their house. It became a trend that is disturbing,” Tran told WTVR. “Together with the situation of [anti-Asian] hate crimes, we feel this is the right time to bring it up to the attention of the public and the government.”
News of the burglaries comes after India K’ Raja restaurant, also in Henrico County, was vandalized last month. On its 27th anniversary, the business at 9051 W. Broad St. saw its side and back walls spray-painted with expletives and anti-Asian remarks.
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“For 27 years, this has been home. Nobody has ever displayed that kind of anger or hate to us,” owner Tony Sappal told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “I’ve spent more of my life here than anywhere else. I’ve raised my family here.”
Earlier this year, authorities also reported about an international burglary ring that targeted high-end homes of Asian families in the D.C. suburbs. The suspects, referred to as “crime tourists,” are believed to have originally come from South American countries such as Colombia and Chile.
“They represent an enormous threat right now in our country,” Dan Heath, a supervisory special agent with the FBI’s criminal investigations division, told The Washington Post. “They are tending to thread the needle in avoiding both state and federal prosecution.”
For now, Henrico police are urging residents to monitor suspicious activity, inspect their homes for security weaknesses, secure valuables such as cash and jewelry and invest in surveillance systems. Since most burglaries occur while homeowners are away, police also advised to “create the illusion that you are home.”
“Leave on lights or televisions. These can be set on timers or set up remotely through your phone or home security system,” police said.
Suspicious activities may be reported to 911 or Henrico police’s non-emergency number, 501-5000. For additional assistance, the Community Services Unit may be called at 501-4838.